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It was in the cards. Last Thursday’s home draw to relegation-threatened Bahia, after leading two nil, saw coach Cuca’s dismissal. “By mutual agreement”, as the Palmeiras statement read on Friday afternoon.

cuca_211In 2016, Cuca guided Palmeiras to their first top-flight title in 22 years before stepping down for personal reasons. After a few months with Eduardo Baptista in command, Cuca was reappointed in May. The premature exit in the Libertadores Cup was followed by an equally disappointing Brazil Cup performance. Now, with plenty of time for training and rest, improvements were expected but Cuca and the squad failed to deliver. The lack of evolution gradually corroded confidence and both players and coach started to display certain listlessness. The ending is always the same: coach sacked. In this second spell at the club, Cuca led Palmeiras in 34 games, with 16 victories, 7 draws and 11 defeats: only 54% of the points available.  

Always a fierce critic of the constant coach swapping in Brazilian football, I have come to understand just how deeply entrenched in the system it is. Consider the latest turns at Palmeiras: Ricardo Gareca, 4 months; Dorival Júnior, 3 months; Oswaldo de Oliveira, 5 months; Marcelo Oliveira, 10 month; Cuca, 8 months (first spell); Eduardo Baptista, 5 months; Cuca, 5 months (second spell). A club might have the best of intentions, wanting to stick with a coach no matter what: the pressure, from everyone and everywhere, is overwhelming. Considering this, Cuca’s dismissal was well timed. Assisting coach Alberto Valentim immediately assumed, last Sunday leading Palmeiras to a 3-1 away victory against Atlético Goianense. With ten rounds to go, he should be able to keep Palmeiras in the top four, securing a spot in next year’s Libertadores.

That said, Valentim has virtually zero chance of receiving a permanent appointment. My sources say Palmeiras have locked sights on current Cruzeiro coach Mano Menezes, with previous spells at Grêmio, Corinthians, Flamengo and, in 2010-2012, Brazil’s national squad. The 55-year-old has been the name of choice of football director Alexandro Mattos for years. Seems discussions are already involving names of players Mano would like to see added to the Palmeiras squad in 2018. With that, planning for next season is well underway, which is fundamentally important.

To Cuca, eternal gratitude for the 2016 Brazilian championship title. Too bad things did not work out in the sequel. Best of luck in future endeavours!

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Interviewed in September of 2015, owner/president of Crefisa and Faculdade das Américas Leila Pereira refuted rumours she held intentions to become president of Palmeiras. “I cannot run for president now. I only recently became a member of the club and the statues say a person needs to have completed two mandates in the Deliberative Council [before being eligible for presidency]”, she told a reporter of Diário de São Paulo. Mrs Pereira knew she was looking at, at least, 16 years to fulfil any aspirations of the sort: eight years of club membership before eligible for the Deliberative Council, then two turns there, each mandate spanning four years.

No small surprise then when Mustafá Contursi, one of the club’s most senior oligarchs, in February of 2016 announced Leila Pereira was not only a club member, but had been so since 1996. Mr Contursi claims having made her an honorary member that year, while he was president of Palmeiras. However, no records of such an act have been found. And even if they were, the statutes does not give the club’s president the mandate to appoint honorary members at will: the procedure is actually fairly complicated, culminating in a decision taken by the plenary of the DC.

However, faced with the explicit threat of a non-renewal of the extremely lucrative sponsorship deal with Crefisa/FAM unless Mrs Pereria was allowed to run for a seat, newly elected Palmeiras president Maurício Galiotte granted Mr Contursi’s request for a revised entry date for Mrs Pereira. In Mr Galiotte’s thinking, the decision to bar Mrs Pereira was not his to make, but should be left to the DC, sometime after the voting (scheduled for early February) but before the newly elected took their seats in March. A few days after Mr Galiotte made his decision public, Palmeiras and Crefisa/FAM renewed their sponsorship agreement, worth an estimated 25% of Palmeiras’ total revenues in 2017-2018.

Why is having a political role at Palmeiras so important for Leila Pereira? Perhaps to please her husband and business partner José Roberto Lamacchia, a hard-core palmeirense (Pereira herself was born in Rio a Vasco supporter). Perhaps she enjoys the power rush. Perhaps it is in all the attention she receives while transiting from a very wealthy but anonymous businesswoman into someone who, in her own words, is recognized on the streets even outside of Brazil. Likely, there is a combination of the above and more; this unknown “more” factor making some of us rather nervous.

leila_mustafaIn any case, at the DC elections in February, Mrs Pereira did indeed run for a seat, as one of the candidates under Mustafá Contursi’s ticket. She was elected with a record 248 votes – several times the number she needed – and the extra votes spilled over to Mr Contursi, who thus reinforced his position in the DC with some 6-8 loyal names. In order to understand the impact of this, I quote Marcelo Santa Vicca: “The easiest way to understand how Mustafá Contursi’s head works is recognising he hates football and only cares for the social club”.

Today, 6 March, the Deliberate Council met to determine on the legitimacy of Mrs Pereira’s candidacy. On paper, a rather straightforward matter, one would think: void candidacy and therefore, void election. Nonetheless, she passed the trial like a breeze, only some 45 of the 228 gathered members of the DC opposing her inauguration.

The club´s statute was shredded in the most vulgar way. The immediate effect is the shame felt by many an honourable palmeirense, many of these outside the political sphere of the club. The medium to long-term effects are impossible to predict.

In addition to the above, the DC also elected two gentlemen as president and vice-president of the Council – Seraphim Del Grande and Carlos Faedo – both linked to Mr Contursi.

A moment of hesitation, and Palmeiras’ political landscape just recedes 15 years. Some thought the dragon had been slayed. It was not even sleeping.

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In Brazilian football in general, and at Palmeiras in particular, time is never on your side. Palmeiras maintained all key ingredients of last year’s successful mix, except for one: the coach. Cuca, for personal reasons, has taken a break from football. In mid-December, Eduardo Baptista was announced as his replacement for the 2017 season.

Baptista debuted in the Paulista state championship beating Botafogo/SP 1-0, then lost 1-0 away to Ituano. These results, and the rather poor football presented, was enough to have segments of Palmeiras supporters raise hell on social media and the ultras of Mancha Verde last Thursday, with the scorecard still at 0-0 against São Bernardo, chant “Hey, Eduardo, pay attention, we want championship titles!”, before requesting the return of Cuca. Palmeiras went on to beat São Bernardo 2-0, goals by Dudu and Jean.

The topic of the week has been “pressure”. Even a seasoned player like Michel Bastos says he was taken by surprise by the volume of demands for expressive results and progress this early in the season. Everyone at the club, from directors down to players, all say the same: implementing a new style of play takes time: the squad and Baptista need a few more weeks to make it work. The premature ruckus has of course been picked up by the media, only adding more heat.
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Although the São Paulo championship is a traditional tournament and obviously has its merits, one cannot deny that it primarily serves as a laboratory for modelling and tuning the squad ahead of the Brazilian championship, the Brazil Cup and international commitments (this year, in Palmeiras’ case, the Libertadores Cup). Being allowed a certain tranquillity at the beginning of the season, while conducting experiments, is crucial for the development of the team and the overall outcome throughout the year.

For some supporters, this is all bull. They feel performance is driven by pressure, and must surface quickly. More importantly, they stress their right to complain, as supporters, and as ticket holders. The effect of the pressure applied seems secondary to the right of exercising it: a curious standpoint from a segment who normally states “Palmeiras above everything” and “Eternal love”.

Last year, supporters filled the airport to wave off the squad ahead of an important away game. They also gathered outside the training facilities with flags, flares and instruments, players stepping off the bus to thank the crowds. A few weeks back, supporters in large numbers were at the airport a 6am to welcome Miguel Borja. The potential for supporters to influence outcomes, both positively and negatively, is a given.

Luckily, most seem to understand that Baptista and his men indeed need to be given time: while the ultras last Thursday expressed their dissatisfaction, a large majority of “regular” supporters at the Allianz Parque booed them down. 

We are less than two hours from kick-off. The team’s performance against Linense, away, will be the determining factor for any amount of tranquillity Baptista and the squad will enjoy ahead of next week’s derby against Corinthians.

Patience! Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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To what extent football clubs should strive to be agents for social inclusion, community development and civic spirit is a cultural and ideological question. We have touched upon the issue previously, in this article. In short, there is no right and wrong, only a sliding scale, based on personal and collective preferences.

The same cannot be said about human rights and civil liberties: these are guaranteed by the constitution of any democracy, as well as a number of international treaties. Human rights are absolute and universal, no sliding scale whatsoever. And although no country fulfil all human rights all the time, they do strive to do so, at least in discourse.

Violation of human rights cannot be tolerated, neither any relaxation of their legal status. The same applies to any arbitrary restriction of civil liberties.

This is why it is so important to thoroughly dissect and discuss what has been happening around the Allianz Parque on game days as of late. What used to be the area palmeirenses gravitated to – either on their way to the stadium or just for spending time with fellow palmeirenses eating, drinking, socialising, and watching the game in any of the local bars – has become a no-go zone for anyone not an Allianz Parque ticket holder.
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Early morning on game day, police set up barricades, creating an iron ring around the stadium and its immediate surroundings. You are only allowed access if you show your ID and a valid ticket to the game. The initiative is backed by a state of São Paulo public prosecutor, who claims the restriction on any citizen’s fundamental freedom of movement is necessary to secure law and order: the “unauthorised selling of street food” being one of the concerns, to “limit the number of thefts” another. The “welfare of residents” a third.

Remember, we are talking about a location where Brazil’s first official football championship, the Paulista of 1902, took place. A location always intimately linked with sports. A neighbourhood that organically developed around the stadium, not the other way around.

A new level of absurdity was reached last Sunday, when seven-year-old Maria Eduarda was barred from passing the checkpoint least she washed the paint off her face. Her father tried to argue against the interpretation of “no masked person is allowed entrance”, but to no use: the green and white, so proudly applied, was removed in a mix of water and tears.
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Supporters are protesting loudly, questioning both the legal aspects and the fact that the no-go zone is applied only to the Allianz Parque, no other stadium.

Palmeiras have not only, albeit discretely, approved the measures, but actually been collaborating, providing third-party staff to help police with the logistics of verifying IDs and tickets at checkpoints.

As frequently stated, Palmeiras is a club used to battle everything and everyone. In 1942, that included the very Government. Our directors need to take a good look in the mirror before siding with abusive, fascist practices.

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With uncharacteristic speed, the Superior Brazilian Tribunal of Sports settled the “external interference” matter of last week. Not surprisingly, there will be no rematch, and the three points have been returned to Flamengo. However, it is surprising that the Tribunal did not even rule on the claim. The president of the entity simply archived the case, justifying his decision with “Lip reading is not proof of anything, and the inspector of refereeing says he did nothing wrong, so… Case closed”.

Case closed, ladies and gentlemen. No investigation, no ruling. Straight to the archives.

The signal is clear: external interference will be tolerated. A precedence has been set. A precedence that is destined to change dynamics on the pitch. In dubious situations, we will see players huddle the referee and simply not allow the game to restart until someone somewhere, with access to a replay, gives the players a thumbs up or down.

“But Flamengo won on the pitch and football should be decided on the pitch, not by a tribunal”, many argue, including quite a lot of sports journalists. I strongly disagree. Flamengo did not win on the pitch, Flamengo drew on the pitch. Flamengo drew, because the referees allowed an offside goal for the opponent – something not uncommon and “part of the game”. The draw only turned into a win for Flamengo due to the external interference; the illegal, off-pitch interference. Where is the justice in that?

The game has changed. Not for the better. And it is all self-inflicted. Congratulations to everyone involved.

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A short summary, in English, of the full text in Portuguese:

Dear Palmeiras supporter,

All of us are tired of how Palmeiras are being treated by mainstream media, and the situation has escalated with the team’s growing success. Although the syndrome is found in almost all TV channels, ESPN in particular has turned the bashing of Palmeiras into a form of art. On social media, this has led to escalating verbal assaults between Palmeiras supporters and sports journalists, reaching a point where they now take over the agenda. 

In light of the above, a selected group of the independent Mídia Palestrina proposes a solution: a clean break.

Initiating with aforementioned ESPN – more specifically their twitter account @ESPNagora – we propose an end to discussions, verbal assaults, following on social media, RTs and the generally providing of audience. We propose an #UnfollowEspnDia31, a date to not only unfollow ESPN but also to generally clean your timeline from all those accounts frequently getting on your nerves by disrespecting Palmeiras in one way or the other.

31 October. The day of #UnfollowEspnDia31.

— ooo —

Caro torcedor palmeirense,

Nosso Verdão segue liderando o Brasileirão e mais um ano caminha para um final verde. Cuca vem impondo uma regularidade ao time que nos enche de orgulho e confiança.

Apesar disso, grande parte da mídia esportiva teima em se referir a nosso time de forma parcial, depreciativa. Exigem futebol “bonito”, olham com desdém para nossa campanha cujos números são incontestáveis e usam seus teclados e microfones para emitir opiniões muitas vezes carregadas de rancor ou simplesmente clubismo.

Nenhuma emissora escapa. Em todas, há pelo menos um profissional que parece ter como missão principal espezinhar o Palmeiras, muitas vezes embasado em fatos distorcidos que levam a conclusões ruins, falácias que manipulam a opinião pública.

Um canal em particular que se especializou nisso: a ESPN. Apesar de manter em seus quadros bons jornalistas, como em toda emissora, em geral o tom das discussões quando o assunto é o Palmeiras é de ranço extremo com o clube, com os dirigentes, com o treinador e com a torcida. Um jornalista em particular personifica esse mau jornalismo neste ano de disputa entre Palmeiras e Flamengo: Mauro Cezar Pereira, cujo amor pelo time carioca não permite que faça análises equilibradas e isentas como a profissão exige, principalmente num canal de tanto alcance.

A internet abriu a possibilidade de tornar o que era uma via de mão única, em uma via de duas mãos. Em tempos de Twitter, Instagram e Facebook, é normal que a torcida em geral se revolte com esse tipo de atitudes antiprofissionais e que use as redes sociais para demonstrar essa indignação. As mensagens poderiam ser bem mais amenas se o tratamento dado ao Palmeiras fosse mais digno.

O palmeirense tem a seu dispor uma mídia alternativa, clubista e parcial, que sempre vai tratar os assuntos que envolvem nosso time com paixão, mas com muita honestidade. Os palmeirenses que consomem o conteúdo dos sites palmeirenses podem até não concordar com as opiniões, mas jamais se sentirão desrespeitados.

Não cabe ao torcedor ofender nenhum jornalista através das redes sociais. Entendemos que o caminho desse tipo de interação, utilizando a linguagem das arquibancadas, em vez de levar a uma reflexão e a ajustes na conduta, só gera desgaste, para todos.

Por isso, em mais uma iniciativa inédita, os sites palmeirenses independentes promovem uma alternativa melhor: o rompimento.

A emissora escolhida para simbolizar esse rompimento com a mídia opinativa é a ESPN, por tudo o que foi citado. Na segunda-feira, dia 31 de outubro, para simbolizar esse rompimento, vamos todos fazer um unfollowzaço no Twitter da emissora (@ESPNagora). Vamos deixar de ler, retuitar e compartilhar suas publicações, ou mesmo de comentá-las. E como consequência, deixar de assisti-los. Se querem fazer jornalismo desta forma, simplesmente não interessa ao torcedor palmeirense. Nossa resposta não será pelo confronto. Vamos apenas riscá-los de nossas vidas.

A torcida do Palmeiras, representada pelos sites abaixo, espera que desta forma a tensão entre palmeirenses e parte da imprensa diminua ou, quem sabe, chegue ao fim. Ninguém mais aguenta esse ambiente destrutivo. Como em qualquer relacionamento que não dá certo, em vez de confronto, o rompimento é a melhor saída. A torcida palestrina já tem a mídia palmeirense. Ninguém precisa da ESPN. E que sirva para outros canais também. O #UnfollowEspnDia31 pode ser estendido a qualquer jornalista ou emissora que você olha atravessado em suas redes sociais, mas que, sabe-se lá por que, você ainda mantém em sua rede. Não se desgaste mais, não passe raiva. Faça uma faxina em sua TL. Dê preferência sempre a quem trata o Palmeiras com respeito.

Dia 31 de outubro, dia do #UnfollowEspnDia31.

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Yesterday’s Palmeiras vs Cruzeiro was a well-played and intense affair, nevertheless resulting in a goalless draw. I could and should elaborate a bit more on the game, the decision to play in Araraquara (the Allianz Parque not available for having received an Andrea Bocelli show the previous night) and the unusual lengths Palmeiras – or rather Paulo Nobre – is ready to go to have national squad members Gabriel Jesus and Mina present and in playing conditions. Could, should, but will not.

The single most important aspect of yesterday’s round happened during Fluminense vs Flamengo, where the runners-up were ahead on two occasions, before Fluminense scored the equaliser, an offside header, five minutes from stoppage time. The linesman raised his flag, but referee Sandro Meira Ricci overruled him, allowing the goal. A few minutes of discussion, as would be expected, then the entire Flamengo bench poured onto the pitch, affirming goalscorer Henrique had indeed been offside. After some ten minutes of this, the referee reversed his decision, disallowing the goal.
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More than one Flamengo player confirmed they learnt Henrique was offside from external sources, i.e. someone watching TV or listening to the radio passing the information on to the bench. Players brought this to the referee, who succumbed to the pressure. Nothing of this appears in the referee’s post-game report, released only this morning: “game stopped for 10 minutes as players from both teams protested against a referee decision relating to an offside situation” and then, a little further down, “nothing out of the ordinary to report”.

Referees acting upon external sources of information are in clear violation of FIFA regulations and of a magnitude that sets the stage for a rematch. Fluminense president Peter Siemsen says he will demand it, but he does not stand a chance. Just as Palmeiras in 2012, when Barcos’ “Hand of God” brace against Internacional was disallowed due to external interference, contributing to the Verdão’s relegation that year.

justice“Why do you defend an unjust goal? Henrique was clearly offside, and justice was made in the end”, some shallow minds argue, failing to see that “making justice” in that particular moment automatically implied in violating justice on every single previous occasion involving controversial refereeing in the championship.

The correct thing would be a rematch. As many clubs as possible should joint ranks with Fluminense (oh, the irony) to endorse that rules and regulations be followed. “Good luck”.

— ooo —

If yesterday’s results stand, Palmeiras are found at 61 points, Flamengo at 60 and Atlético Mineiro, who beat América Mineiro 3-0, at 56. With eight rounds to go. Buckle up, people.

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